Challenges return for Patriots' corners

Posted Jan. 12, 2011 @ 2:53 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Each Wednesday throughout the season we'll identify one player, coach or area of the team that is most under the microscope. This week, CBs Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington are the choice.

This isn't the first time we've put the Patriots' secondary under the microscope. In fact, being the team's weak link, they are there quite often.

As much as the Patriots' defense improved over the course of the season, they still finished the season near the bottom of the league in passing defense and dead last in third-down defense.

While the Pats' "D" took it to Jets QB Mark Sanchez in Week 13, when he completed just 51.5 percent of his passes and tossed three picks, Week Two is still fresh in their minds. In the 28-14 Jets win, Sanchez completed a season-high 70 percent of his passes, including three touchdowns.

McCourty became a standout corner this season, picking off seven passes, including one against the Jets while covering WR Braylon Edwards. He's a great on-ball defender, but was beat on a quick slant for a TD in Week Two and can be prone to a rookie mistake. He has the physicality to match up with Edwards and Santonio Holmes, but look for the Jets to attack him on quick passes when he plays off the ball.

Arrington might be picked on during Sunday's game, and Darius Butler is ready off the bench if needed. Arrington is a good run stopper and has made some key pass breakups this season, but he doesn't have the skills that McCourty has.

As discussed on Tuesday, stopping the run will be a challenge in itself for the Patriots' front seven, but if Sanchez finds a way to get the ball moving through the air, the Patriots will need another great day out of Tom Brady to move on.